Four more suspects have been arrested in connection with the brutal murder of liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed in the early hours on April 23.
The police said in a statement Tuesday that “substantial progress” has been made with six suspects arrested on May 2nd, 3rd and 8th and expressed confidence of successfully concluding the investigation in the coming days.
“The Maldives Police Service would like to reiterate our commitment to give maximum priority to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice and to create a safer environment for the Maldivian community,” it added.
Two days after the 29-year-old writer and IT professional was found with multiple stab wounds in the stairway of his apartment building in Malé, the police claimed to have identified two suspects from security camera footage.
It is unclear if any of the suspects in custody are the two men whose grainy photos were shared with the public.
The first suspect, who was arrested on May 2, lived near Yameen’s home and was reportedly tailing him on the night of the murder. According to local media, the second suspect works at a government-owned company.
Last week, Yameen’s family sued the police over the failure to protect him and investigate numerous death threats. The family’s lawyer Husnu Suood, a former attorney general, said Yameen had filed separate complaints in 2010, 2014 and most recently in late December 2016.
On Monday, Yameen’s family members living in Sri Lanka along with about 30 Maldivians demonstrated outside the Maldives embassy in Colombo.
The protesters, who were joined by Sandya Ekenaligoda, wife of a missing Sri Lankan cartoonist, carried red balloons and placards calling for justice.
— Amantha (@AmanthaP) May 8, 2017
— Groundviews (@groundviews) May 8, 2017
— Nauty 🎈⚖️❓ (@nautymatox) May 8, 2017
— Aya Naseem 🎈 (@AyaNaseem) May 8, 2017
Earlier on Monday, Yameen’s last employer, the Maldives Stock Exchange, launched a new web portal that allows investors to access their depository account and subscribe for shares online. Yameen worked on the portal for the past six months along with four other developers from the MSE.
Yameen’s friends and family meanwhile gathered at the artificial beach on Friday afternoon with banners and placards questioning the credibility of the police investigation.
Signatures were also collected for a petition to be submitted to the human rights watchdog.
Last week, the police refused to accept 800 letters submitted by Yameen’s father calling for an independent investigation with foreign experts. Hussain Rasheed, 54, was told that each letter must be submitted by the individual who signed it.
The letters were collected by Yameen’s family and friends as a petition to be submitted to Commissioner of Police Ahmed Areef and the People’s Majlis.
Rasheed previously told reporters in Colombo that the police had acted suspiciously after the murder by washing the crime scene, repainting the blood-spattered wall, and preventing anyone from taking photographs.
The police also failed to seriously investigate several complaints Yameen had lodged about receiving death threats, he added.
His son was threatened by radicalised local gangs for speaking out against rising Islamic extremism, Rasheed said.
Yameen was the third liberal blogger or human rights defender to be targeted in the past five years. In June 2012, three men assaulted Ismail Hilath Rasheed, a former editor of newspaper Haveeru, and slashed his throat. He narrowly survived the murder attempt outside his door.
Despite the police claiming to have access to CCTV footage near Hilath’s home in the capital, no arrests were made.
In February, the family of missing Maldives Independent (formerly Minivan News) journalist Ahmed Rilwan sued the police for refusing to disclose information about the abduction after more than 900 days.
Yameen, one of Rilwan’s closest friends, spearhead the campaign to pressure the authorities to investigate the disappearance.
The family previously accused the state of involvement in his disappearance, alleging police negligence in investigating the case.
The police initially denied any link between Rilwan’s disappearance in August 2014 and a reported abduction outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé.
But in a stark reversal in April last year, Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh said Rilwan was taken into a car that belonged to a notorious gangster.
A suspect who was arrested in November 2014 was seen trailing Rilwan on CCTV footage, Satheeh said, but he left the country after his release by the criminal court.